The Ranch at Laguna Beach
There aren’t many places in Southern California that remain undeveloped, pristine. Set in a lush canyon next to a flowing stream,The Ranch at Laguna Beach is one of those places. Dating back to 1871, the original 152-acre parcel and one-room shack evolved over the years to its most recent incarnation.
Retaining its original village charm is vital to the success of the secluded private luxury resort that resides there today. The Ranch at Laguna Beach is tucked into Aliso and Wood Canyons – its rustic, simple signage along Coast Highway directs visitors onto a nondescript driveway that winds its way along a quarter mile stretch from the panoramic Pacific Ocean past verdant vegetation and dramatic rock walls that climb as high as 600 feet to the oasis within.
Ranked among the top 10 California resort hotels, this AAA Four Diamond-rated property is no longer the region’s “best kept secret” – today, travelers the world over seek to get caught up in the “coastal cool” world of the Laguna local that’s off the beaten path in every sense.
Grafted into the Laguna culture and notched into the perfect convergence of land and sea, a stay at The Ranch LB is a microcosm of the best of Laguna in one organic, refined place. This laid-back luxury hotel speaks to the Laguna mindset – its staff offering an insider’s take on hidden surf spots, shops and specialty galleries. The property showcases spacious rooms and suites, beach access, a luxurious spa, state-of-the-art fitness center, outdoor saline pool and hot tub and a 9-hole golf course characterized by an ultra-private playing experience with stunning views.
Loosely scattered about the park-like grounds, within the incomparable setting of Mother Nature’s own magnum opus, the property’s spacious guest rooms and suites enjoy a “seamless dance between casual elegance and the breathtaking 360-degree vistas.” Unlike any resort in Orange County, The Ranch at Laguna Beach features 20 two-level, two-bedroom cottages. With 1,125 square feet and over 300 square feet of outdoor space, the Cottages offer a half bath downstairs with full bath upstairs, upstairs bedrooms with a king bed and queen bed, first-floor patio and upstairs balcony – a sublime space for a family weekend retreat or a multi-generational getaway.
My husband and I fancy ourselves fledging foodies and oenophiles so we were particularly excited to sample the fare at the resort’s signature restaurant Harvest. We were told to expect the menu to reflect the chefs’ “masterfully creative and intensely local” take on California comfort food designed with food-lovers in mind. The menu changes with each season, integrating fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables grown and gathered on property (more on that in a minute).
For starters, the cheese and charcuterie are worth a special mention – a rotating selection of gourmet cheese and cured meats, served with pickled vegetables, spreads and artisan breads. The Crispy Brussels Sprouts arrived with a unique presentation of toasted pecans, pears, radicchio and sweet chili.
For the main course, there are abundant options for even the most discriminating palate. My meat-and-potatoes husband enjoyed the cooked-to-perfection Double ‘R’ Ranch Filet accompanied by Boursin whipped potatoes, garlic roasted broccolini, carmelized shallots and red-wine demi-glazed. I, on the other hand, am our family’s resident seafood aficionado and a huge fan of pan roasted black cod, so I was thrilled to discover the dish on the menu. Harvest’s rendition didn’t disappoint – the melt-in-your-mouth miso-saki marinated cod was perfectly paired with a toasted sesame risotto, sunchokes, lemongrass, braised bok choy and ginger soy. For our teenage son and daughter, the Dry Aged Burger was a hit enhanced with Neuske smoked bacon, double sharp cheddar and all the fixings on toasted brioche.
For the historian and the foodie alike, there is a special treat on site. At the edge of the property, Harvest Garden is a sustainable half-acre parcel, producing the freshest flowers and produce. As an homage to the original homesteaders, its ingredients are found in the fresh-made food and drink that are a focus throughout the dining experience here. The garden is open for tours on Sunday mornings and just a hairsbreadth away from the remarkable boundlessness of Mother Nature herself.
I would be remiss in not calling out one of the highlights of our stay and a unique amenity of The Ranch – the Grill N’ Glow Firepit rental and specialty s’mores roasting kits. We whiled away a late afternoon upon arrival, savoring a quintessential California sunset and indulging in a little dessert before dinner – exactly as you are supposed to do when on vacation, according to our kids.
Bringing together the history of organic farming on the property and its modern take on delectable coastal fare coupled with luxury accommodations and amenities, you’ll long to see it kept as owner Mark Christy does: “genuinely magical and timeless” for years to come.